Monday July 14 2014

Talking medicine :Do not mix ARVs with herbal medicines


By Stella Nakakande

There are several beleifs that people have about modern and herbal medicines. For instance, some people believe herbal medicines are more effective than conventional or modern medicines. As such, they will opt for these medicines to treat any ailments.

However, for people living with HIV/Aids, mixing anti retroviral drugs with traditional herbs may have negative effects on your health, and is therefore discouraged.

Most HIV positive people get to know their status from a health facility, where they are started on treatment depending on their viral load and immune system. But because of the nature of the disease, an infected person might opt to add herbal medication on top of the anti-retroviral therapy that they have been given.
As such, they take the herbal medication without considering the dosage.

As I have said before, the exact mode of action of the herbs, and the active ingredient in them is usually not known. One thing to note though is that plants usually have more than one active ingredient since they are usually not isolated like modern medicine. As such, the active ingredient could speed up the metabolism of the drug, in this case ARVs.

This means, there is less of the drug than is required to actually do what it is supposed to do. And since the virus is being attacked by an under dose, chances are high that it will multiply and mutate as per their nature. In the end, the viral load increases while the CD4 count goes down. This, in turn signals failure of treatment.

Costly option
As a result, a person who was on first line drugs will now have to be moved to second line drugs, which are usually more costly.
Drugs are chosen as first line for a number of reasons, including their cost effectiveness, the level of side-effects and costs. So, moving from one line to another might compromise any of the above factors.

Taking herbal and modern medicine at the same time could also lower the metabolism of the drug. While some may look at this as a good thing, in the long run you realise that if the drug is in the body beyond the time it is supposed to, the higher the chances of developing side-effects increase. Therefore, you need to tell your doctor what you are taking. ARVs are known to work effectively on their own, so please, take note.

The writer is a pharmacist